Yankee Run Golf Course in Brookfield held their annual Spring 5-Man Scramble Tournament on Sunday. The long-running event has made a big comeback over the last several years, so much so that a two-wave shotgun start was put back into place for 2017. It worked: a 42-team sellout and multiple teams on the waiting list.
But for the first time in many years, there were also changes made to the tournament rules — and candidly, those changes might need a review.
For many years, Yankee Run has used age-appropriate tees for its 5-Man Scramble. Executed properly, variable tees are a great concept. Northeast Ohio Golf successfully uses age-appropriate tees for its own Stroke Play Series. Every player has a chance to compete equally regardless of age, all together in one big field. Kumbaya.
Prior to this year at Yankee Run, the rules had younger players through 39 years of age hit from the back tees, players 40-49 years old hit from the middle tees, and players 50+ from the forward tees. Women of all ages hit from the red tees.
This setup created five driveable par-4 holes primarily for all the 40+ and 50+ year old players, and made all of the par-5s easily reachable for just about every team. But the back tees for the younger players were always so far back that it put them out of range for these reachable holes, taking the youngsters out of play a bit too much.
So this year, the rules were revised so that all male players through the age of 59 — both pros and ams — played from the white tees. Players age 60+ hit from the forward set of gold tees.
The gold tees were placed where they have always been in years past: far-forward. But the white tees were backed up more toward the blue tee boxes this year, making the golf course play much longer than it has in the past for players ages 40-59.
This created a new problem: the difference in tee locations across all of the holes in this new setup gave an out-sized advantage to teams with multiple players age 60+. Better-than-average tee shots from those age 60+ players were reaching the greens or fringes, but bombed tee shots from 40- and 50-year-old players were still many yards back in the fairway.
Even more at issue, the par-3 yardage differences ran from 30 to 60 yards between gold and white. That’s simply too big of a difference on any par-3, the most critical holes in a scramble. It led to short irons and wedges for the 60-year-olds, while the “younger” players were hitting 5/6/7 irons. (And remember, a 59-year-old was considered a “younger” player this year.)
Given all of this, here are some suggestions to keep the 2018 Yankee Run Spring 5-Man Scramble a two-wave sellout that plays fair for all:
First, decide what type of scramble this tournament is to be. Should it be an event filled with multiple eagle opportunities, set up with many driveable par-4s and short par-5s for low scoring if you make the tricky putts? Or should it be a traditional scramble where a good tee shot still leaves a full second shot to the green? Make that decision first, then determine where the tees should be set based on that decision.
Once the “type” of scramble is chosen, implement a new age-appropriate system that is 100% fair for all players. Go back to four sets of tees: blue, white, gold and red. Make sure no age group gets a big advantage on the tee. And treat pros and ams differently, too.
Here is one suggestion for age-appropriate tees that could be used for any scramble, with consideration given to age, gender and pro vs. am:
Pros under age 55: blue tees
Pros age 55+: white tees
Ams under age 40: blue tees
Ams age 40 to 59: white tees
Ams age 60+: gold tees
Ladies under age 30: gold tees
Ladies age 30+: red tees
“Driveable par-4s” should be designated then set up to give a fair chance for all categories of players: blue tees no more than 320 yards out, white tees at about 300 yards, gold tees at 280 yards, and red tees at 240 yards. Smash away.
The par-3s, long par-4s and all par-5 holes should have no more than 15 yards between each set of tees for the men. Tees should be set starting with the blues as far back as possible (unless the hole is intended to be driveable). Then set the white tees 15 yards closer to the hole, the gold tees another 15 yards in front of that (30 yards closer than the blues), and the red tees another 20-40 yards in front of the golds based on the length of hole.
Follow these guidelines, and now any course plays fair for players of all ages and scramble teams of any age makeup.
Look, even with this year’s new rules setup, the Yankee Run 5-Man provided a fun day. The food at the Burger Bar was fantastic as always. The service in the clubhouse came with a smile. The weather cooperated as the afternoon storms skirted right around. The golf course conditions were beautiful. And the pace of play was phenomenal at 4 hours 20 mins.
But the 2017 tee box rules gave too big of an advantage to teams filled with players 60+ years of age. And the setup didn’t recognize the inherent difference in length and strength between a 25-year-old pro and the 59-year-old amateur who had to play from the exact same tee box spot.
The outline above is just one suggestion to balance the field for next year’s Yankee Run 5-Man. The goal should be to continue the tradition of age-appropriate tees, with teams of every age in the mix.
Have your own ideas you’d like to toss out? Add them as to the Comments section below…